Saturday, January 21, 2012

Re: RDA and Flatlands

Posting to Autocat

On sabato 21 gennaio 2012 17:12:48, Marian Veld wrote:
<snip>
On Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 3:29 PM, James Weinheimer wrote:
I have mentioned several times that the FRBR user tasks provide nothing essentially new, and that catalogs today can achieve those user tasks right now. Perhaps it's kind of a pain at the moment in some catalogs, but in Worldcat and other catalogs, it can be done now. With some programming magic, the public can very easily "find, identify, select, obtain: works, expressions, manifestations, items by their authors, titles, subjects". The undeniable fact is, our catalogs provide FRBR capabilities right now, they just haven't allowed it through keyword until relatively recently, but anyway, catalogs have always aimed to provide this kind of access.
"Perhaps it's kind of a pain at the moment..." EXACTLY. That's why change is needed. As for user tasks, your comments consistently show that you don't have public library patrons in mind. Easily over half of the reference questions at the public libraries I've worked at have been known item requests. Well sort of... As in, "I'm looking for this book about<supply subject here> but I don't remember the author or title. They're looking for a specific item they saw on tv, or heard about on the radio, or a friend recommended, etc... Amazon.com is the best reference resource for those kind of questions. Which shows just how much our catalogs need to change.
</snip>
I have said repeatedly that change is needed. What is important to keep in mind is that *if* we want to take steps toward implementing the FRBR user tasks, then the most efficient and cheapest way is definitely *not* to institute FRBR data model and RDA. Computers can implement the FRBR user tasks and you can do it with open-source catalogs. Right now,
today.

While implementing an open source catalog is not "free", I admit, it is much cheaper than retraining the entire cataloging community to implement rules that are much more complex than what we have now, and then to expect our library catalogs to retool.
 
But with the example you give, of someone looking for a book that they heard on TV or only by the subject, I've had lots of those questions too. How will going through all the expense of FRBR and RDA supposed to help answer those questions better than what we have today? Our  catalogs have always been specifically designed to answer known-item questions. They still do, and could do it better with better cataloging software. Here's an example of how powerfully it can work today for Shakespeare's Hamlet in Worldcat:
http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3Ashakespeare+william+ti%3Ahamlet&qt=advanced&dblist=638.

With this search, we are looking at the "work" of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Then look in the left column to see how it implements the FRBR user tasks. Quite brilliant.

With these new types of functionalities, undreamt of just 10 years ago, the searcher can limit this result for the work of Hamlet, by clicking on different formats, languages, dates, and other limits. This is incredibly easy for anybody once you have the right search for uniform title. This wonderful functionality can be improved tremendously and made even simpler for the searcher, but nevertheless, it demonstrates how someone can go through the user tasks right now, today.

Precisely this same functionality is found in the open source catalog, Koha, but other open source catalogs have it as well. So, there is no need to change anything we do today *if* the purpose is to implement the FRBR user tasks. It is a pain for the user *only if* your catalog
software does not allow it. Otherwise, as we see with the OCLC example, it's not such a pain.

Still, I have tried to point out that most people do *not* need the FRBR user tasks, but want something else, so just getting the FRBR user tasks to work solves very little. For instance, the Shakespeare's Hamlet search is nice, but does it provide the searchers with what they really need and want? I don't think anyone can answer that at this moment.

One of the first jobs of librarians should be to find out what the user needs of the public *really are*, such as Google and other big information companies are doing now. I still say that this is one reason why they are so far ahead of libraries--Google etc. are closer to giving the public what they want because those companies have done the work and have a much better idea of what the public really wants.

Once librarians get an idea of what the public is doing and what their needs may be, then we can really begin to move forward.

My suggestion: libraries should implement the facets in their own catalogs using the functionality as found in Worldcat and Koha, then declare that FRBR is implemented, so that they can move on.

No comments:

Post a Comment